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Infant Skin Care Products: What Are the Issues?

Kuller, Joanne McManus RN, MS

Section Editor(s): Zukowsky, Ksenia

doi: 10.1097/ANC.0000000000000341
Clinical Issues in Neonatal Care

Background: Infant skin is susceptible to dryness and irritation from external factors, including topical skin care products not formulated for the infant's skin. This may increase the risk of contact dermatitis. Parents frequently express concern regarding potential harm from ingredients in skin care products and seek information. This is complicated by several skin care myths.

Purpose: The purpose of this literature review was to provide evidence-based information to educate parents on the use of products for preterm and term infants.

Search Strategy: Multiple searches using PubMed were conducted including the search terms “infant skin care,” “infant products,” “infant bath,” “emollients,” “diaper skin care,” and “diaper wipes.” Reference lists of comprehensive reviews were also scanned. Google searches were used to assess consumer information, product information, and regulatory guidelines.

Findings: There is little scientific evidence to support safety of natural/organic products on infant skin. Raw materials originate from different sources, complicating testing and comparisons of ingredients. Research shows that cleansers formulated for infant skin do not weaken the skin barrier the way harsher soaps and detergents can. Oils with the lowest oleic acid content provide a lower risk of irritant contact dermatitis.

Implications for Practice: Nurses must be informed about natural and organic products, preservatives, and fragrances and know the definition of commonly used marketing terms.

Implications for Research: Decisions regarding the use of infant products in preterm and term infants should be evidence based. More research is needed to support claims regarding the safety of products used on infant skin.

Neonatal Clinical Nurse Specialist, UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, Oakland, California.

Correspondence: Joanne McManus Kuller, RN, MS, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland, 747 52nd St, Oakland, CA 94609 (;

Member of Kimberly-Clark Huggies Nursing Advisory Council.

Co-investigator on a grant from Johnson & Johnson for an investigator-initiated First Bath research study.

Received fees from Johnson & Johnson Pacific for speaking engagements in Australia.

© 2016 by The National Association of Neonatal Nurses